travel

A Vegan on a Costa Rican Yoga Retreat

It’s been a little over 2 weeks since I returned from a weeklong vacation in Costa Rica and, oh my damn, I already want to go back. It’s not that I don’t love and appreciate the life that I have at home (or that the bitter, midwestern cold tries to eat away at my soul), but rather that the “pura vida” way of living has reminded me of the beauty that exists in the world and in the present moment.

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The retreat was booked through a local yoga studio, who picked the amazingly swanky and serene Bodhi Tree Yoga Resort near Nosara for our stay. This place was the downright bomb diggity. We arrived on an unseasonably windy night yet were still in awe of the giant structure built right into the mountains.

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The resort itself features all the amenities one could want for a relaxing respite on the beach: spa, saltwater pool, juice bar, incredible wi-fi, excursion booking, top-of-the-line yoga shalas and equipment, and buffet spreads of incredible, fresh foods.

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For breakfasts most mornings I indulged in some cereal (with my pick of coconut, almond, or soy milk!), fresh fruit, and caramelized plantains. I’d never had a plantain before and WOW, are they tasty! On lucky mornings we even had a tofu scramble! Sadly, the buffets were not completely vegan or vegetarian, but I would guess they were about 80% vegan, even if accidentally.

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The lunch spreads were packed with plant-based goodies, too! Cucumber lemonade and a chilled watermelon mushroom soup (don’t ask me how, but it works!) accompanied roasted vegetables, protein-packed beans, and a wide array of salads on this particular day. There were always two types of hot sauces available to spice things up and The Best Bite-Sized Vegan Brownies on most days.

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One of the most amazing parts of the trip was visiting the Pacific Ocean for the first time ever. Playa Guiones was peaceful and gorgeous and chock-full of tiny little snails inching their way along the shore. One afternoon we went surfing (another first!), which was so incredibly thrilling, even if I drank a lot of seawater in the process.

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I attended the retreat with one of my closest buddies and we gained a new friend in our third roommate, who provided laughs and good cheer throughout our stay. Something I really appreciated about this type of retreat is that everything was schedule-as-you-go. There is a time for detailed, jam-packed trips, but I really, REALLY needed a laid back, lounge by the pool, peacefully explore my surroundings type of excursion.

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Included in our retreat were early morning yoga classes and some extra passes to the afternoon and evening classes offered to the community. Our first morning we got to experience the incredible open-air yoga shala at the top of the resort, which overlooked the ocean. Each day, save for two or so, was extremely windy and so we spent part of our practice that morning breaking our concentration to hold down our mats or chase our water bottles down. After that, we moved to the indoor shala. Luckily, our last morning was peaceful and we got to spend our last practice together outdoors again.

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Simply exploring the grounds was an incredible experience. Even thought it was the dry season, there were still flourishing flowers and the occasional iguana to be seen. The grounds are very much a part of the natural mountainous terrain and our uphill treks up to the main area and pool each morning from our room burned quite a few calories.

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The beach was about a 20 minute walk from the resort, which took us through the small (tiny!) town of Guiones. Mostly galleries and little shops, the rocky little town also featured a few spots to eat (even an ice cream place with some vegan flavors!) and a grocery store with lots of organic and health items.

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Some of my favorite meals from the retreat were a simple baked tofu with chimichurri sauce, kale and white bean cheeseless quesadillas, an incredible vegan kale Caesar salad, a flavorful black bean soup, and a to-die-for cold Israeli couscous salad. Needless to say, I have begun trying to reinvent some of these dishes at home.

All in all, the trip was a wonderfully rejuvenating respite from everyday life in an absolutely breathtaking location. I would recommend the resort to anyone looking for time to deeply relax with daily yoga practice, a gorgeous pool, and the sensation of being so close to the sights and sounds of the jungle. Until we meet again, Costa Rica. Pura vida!

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